Answer:

As explained by ConsumerLab.com's president, Tod Cooperman, M.D. in a New York Times article, the "Best By" or "Use By" date on a supplement label indicates how long a supplement is expected to last before its potency falls below 100% of the listed amount. Although the FDA does not require supplement labels to provide an expiration date, companies which include these dates are required to have stability data to support their claims. The expiration date refers to the shelf life of the unopened container stored under the conditions specified on the label.

A "Date of Manufacture" simply indicates when the supplement was made, not how long the ingredients remain stable and potent. Typically, supplements are stable and potent if properly maintained for two to three years, but this depends on the product. Exposure to heat and/or moisture can significantly shorten shelf life.

Be sure to take extra care when looking at the date listed on probiotics supplements. Some may list the number of cells in a product as the amount "at the time of manufacture" — a practice which is misleading and violates FDA regulations. You can learn more about this in the "ConsumerTips" section of ConsumerLab.com's Probiotic Supplements Review, as well as in this interview with Dr. Tod Cooperman on Reuter's Health.

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2 Comments

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Roy16627
March 25, 2018

I get most of my Rx drugs and supplements by mail, but never during hot months or winter freezes. I keep out only what I need, then store the rest in double-sealed plastic bags with desiccant packs at 40F in my fridge. To avoid condensation I always bring them back to room temp before opening a sealed bag.
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I’m hoping to extend their life beyond the use-by-date. It seems to be working.
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The desiccant I’m using for this is: Stack-On Safe 'N Dry Spad-60 packets by DESICCARE, INC. These are a combination silica jell & activated charcoal desiccant packs, and are available as 10 packs for about $12 by ordering them from Wal-Mart.
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I’m also putting these in my dry hot cereals and beans to protect from yeast or mold.

Martin13887
April 2, 2017

One of the supplement manufactures whose products I like and use, Swanson, only gives you the date of manufacture on their product labels. I think they should give you both the date of manufacture, as well as the "Best By" date. If I had to choose one or the other, my preference is the Best By Date.

Marilyn13912
April 11, 2017

I am a Swanson customer also, & have been for years. I also prefer the 'best buy' date. I now purchase enough to last me only 6 months, This is comfortable for me.

JARKKO18685
November 30, 2019

When I order from Swanson website, they never tell Best Before dates when I order, I only see the dates when I receive the product. So I don't know how many capsules can I order at one time, so that they don't expire. I plan to order 2 Swanson products: Swanson Neumentix and Swanson Ultra Phosphatidylserine.

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